Venison Neck Tacos Recipe

Venison necks are kind of like shanks: They’re well suited for braising and render soft, delicious meat. They have a more mild flavor than shanks, which allows them to absorb flavors and makes them perfect for a mole sauce.

I’m not going to lie—making mole is complex and time consuming. But hey, you might have some time on your hands right now. Why not put in the work and experiment with a new dish?

You can use the neck roast from any ungulate, from elk to Coues deer. I made the mole recipe large enough to accommodate any size cut. You can freeze the unused mole for up to 6 months and use in other recipes.

Serving size

4-8 people, depending on size of neck roast

Time to make

6 hours

Ingredients

Mole Sauce
5–6 dried guajillo peppers, seeds and stems removed
5–6 dried ancho peppers, seeds and stems removed
2–8 dried arbol peppers, seeds and stems removed
4–5 dried black mission figs, hard stem removed
1/3 cup raisins
4 cups boiling water
1 tbsp. sesame seeds 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. anise seeds
1/2 stick cinnamon (1–2 inches long)
6-8 coffee beans
3 vine-ripened tomatoes (whole, stems removed)
4–5 medium tomatillos (whole, peeled)
6–8 fresh garlic cloves (whole, unpeeled)
1 medium sweet onion, quartered
2 to 3 cups chicken stock, divided
2-3 tablespoon lard, divided
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
4–6 oz. Mexican chocolate, depending on preferred sweetness

Meat
1 elk neck roast, approximately 3 to 8 pounds
2 tsp. salt or to taste
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup white flour

Tacos
Corn tortillas
Queso fresco Mexican cheese, shredded or crumbled
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Also works with

Any neck roast.

Special equipment

cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, mortar and pestle or spice grinder, fine mesh strainer, regular blender, Magic Bullet or other small blender

Method

1

Mole

  1. In a medium saucepan, boil 4 cups of water. Using a small knife, split the peppers lengthwise and remove seeds. Discard the stems and seeds. Toast all three types of peppers in a dry cast iron skillet or large frying pan over medium heat until the peppers just start to blacken. Do not burn. Remove the peppers from heat and place in a medium mixing bowl. Char the figs and raisins in the pan over medium heat and add to the bowl of peppers. Add 3 cups of boiling water to the bowl. Place a bowl or plate on the peppers in the hot water to keep the peppers submerged. Let the bowl sit for at least 30 minutes so that the peppers can rehydrate.
  2. Heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Place the whole tomatoes, tomatillos, quartered onion, and garlic (with the peel still on) in the skillet and char all sides of the vegetables. After the tomatoes, tomatillos, and onions are charred on all sides, remove them from the heat and place in a blender. Remove the garlic from the heat and allow to cool for a minute. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, remove the peel and add it to the blender as well.
  3. Add one to one and a half cup stock to the blender. Puree until smooth and set aside.
  4. Add lard to skillet or pan, and melt over medium heat. Add the pecans, walnuts, and almonds, and toast until they darken in color, or approximately 3 minutes. Remove the toasted nuts from the heat and add to the blender with vegetables. With the remaining lard, fry a corn tortilla until dark golden brown.
  5. Add the toasted tortilla to the blender and blend well.
  6. Loosely break up cinnamon stick with a mortar and pestle. Put sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, anise seeds, broken up cinnamon sticks, and coffee beans into a skillet and toast them on medium heat for 1 minute. Move all toasted spices to a mortar and pestle, or spice grinder and grind them until they are fine. Set aside.
  7. After the peppers have reabsorbed the liquid for at least 30 minutes, strain them, reserving 1/4 cup of the pepper juice. Place peppers, 1/4 cup of pepper water, and an additional 1 cup of stock in a Magic Bullet or similar small blender. Add the toasted spices, oregano, and thyme to a blending bullet and blend them into a liquid. (It is best if you use a bullet to get a finer blend than a large blender. If you only have a blender, blend as well as you can, and pour through a fine metal wire strainer to remove any large chunks of pepper.)
  8. Pour the blended vegetables and the blended peppers and spices into your cast iron skillet or large frying pan over low heat. Add the Mexican chocolate.
  9. Simmer sauce for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring slowly and constantly. The sauce will darken and thicken. Remove from heat.
  10. Ladle half of the sauce into a bowl and set aside. This can be frozen for up to 6 months and used at a later date.

Meat

  1. Heat oven to 280 F.
    Lightly salt and pepper the elk neck meat. Dust with flour. Add a tablespoon of oil or lard to a large skillet or frying pan. Brown neck over medium-high heat.
  2. Make sure to crisp all edges, including narrow sides. Use a set of tongs to hold meat on its side when browning the narrow edges. Once the meat is browned, remove pan from heat and set aside on a plate.
  3. In a cast iron skillet, braising pot, or Dutch oven, pour enough sauce to cover bottom, approximately half of the total sauce made. Place the braised neck roast in the pan and ladle the sauce over it to cover it. Cover the skillet with heavy duty tin foil. Braise in 280F oven for 3 to 4 hours.

Tacos

  1. Chop your white onion finely. Chop the cilantro, and shred the queso fresco Mexican cheese. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
  2. Once the meat is fork tender, allow to cool slightly and then shred.
  3. Place a fine metal strainer over an appropriate sized bowl, and pour the sauce the meat was cooked in through the strainer. Use a flexible spatula or large spoon to press all the liquid into your bowl. Discard what’s left in the strainer.
  4. Keep sauce warm in a small saucepan over low heat.
  5. Place the shredded meat back into the skillet and cover. Place in the oven on low until ready to serve.
  6. When you are ready to serve your tacos, heat the corn tortillas in the microwave in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel to keep them flexible and slightly moist. You can also heat them in a skillet over low heat.
  7. Assemble your tacos with the meat first, cover in sauce, and add the cheese, onions, and cilantro.

Feature image via Bryan Gregson